News Briefs: Will Hynix Clean Up Its Toxics? | Long Wait for New Cop Auditor | CPA Weighs in on Exclusion | EAT is Back, Loves Torrey | Activist Alert | War Dead | Lane Area Herbicide Spray Schedule | Corrections/Clarifications
Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
City to ban hundreds of people from downtown
Out, Proud and Smiling
Pride turns 17 under sunny skies
Happening Person: Dr. Pamela Wible
WILL HYNIX CLEAN UP ITS TOXICS?
Hynix is shutting down, and Eugene may be left cleaning up a variety of messes left behind. Former employees are scrambling for jobs during an economic downturn, the politicos are counting the loss of tax dollars and environmentalists are starting to wonder who is going to clean up Hynix’s toxics and who’s going to pay for it.
Semiconductor plants like Hynix make up many of the Superfund sites on the National Priority List in California’s Silicon Valley. Superfund sites are uncontrolled or abandoned areas with hazardous waste that could affect nearby ecosystems or people. The Silicon Valley contamination was so bad that there were stories of residents who had toxic chemicals coming out of their water taps, says UO chemistry professor Paul Engelking.
At the end of 2007, Hynix reported to the Eugene Toxics Right-to-Know database that it had 258,174 lbs of toxic chemicals stored on site. The company used more than 9 million pounds of toxics in 2007 alone to produce its chips.
So how does Eugene head off becoming another statistic on the Superfund list? Ted Yackulic of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 10, which oversees Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska, says the chemical cleanup process in Oregon for a plant like Hynix is largely voluntary. “The company is in the driver’s seat,” he says.
Engelking, who has questioned Hynix’s toxic releases and their affects on nearby natural resources in the past, says that he thinks “Hynix will be able to cart off most, if not all, of their hazardous materials.” The Superfund sites in Silicon Valley were the result of leaking underground storage tanks, says Engelking, and “it is unlikely that any of Hynix’s tanks have leaked, and most of them are aboveground.”
If Hynix’s toxics do need cleanup, the process begins after the plant officially gives notification of a permanent shutdown. Thirty days before permanent closure, Hynix needs to submit a “facility closure plan” to the fire marshal’s office explaining how they will get rid of the chemicals.
The EPA only steps in if there is a concern that there are chemicals left on the site that would be harmful to people or the environment. According to Yackulic, even when a site becomes a Superfund site, “the polluter pays” to have the cleanup done. A site must be cleaned up whether it is going to be reused as another facility or left abandoned, according to EPA regulations. Still, the money must be found to pay for an EPA investigator, and not everyone believes Hynix will voluntarily report all of its toxics.
Engelking notes that there is “likely to be some residue deposited in the area, especially at the Nature Conservancy downwind, from 10 years of inorganic salts, such as ammonium and sodium nitrates, sulfates and fluorides, emitted into the air.”
He is also concerned with a stormwater drain emptying into a ditch north of 18th Avenue, adjacent to the plant. The ditch drains away from the area near the plant and empties into Willow Creek. The water in that ditch has “has very high conductivity due to inorganic salts, principally sulfates,” says Engelking. He says conductivity measurements have run into the thousands of microSiemens per centimeter compared a river like the McKenzie, which measures about 10.
Willow Creek empties into the Eugene wetlands and then into Amazon Creek.
Though sulfates are generally considered to be nontoxic by the EPA, they are considered a drinking water contaminant, and consuming high doses of sulfate laden water can lead to dehydration in animals or humans drinking from the stream. Sulfates in the environment are also a contributing cause to acid rain. — Camilla Mortensen
LONG WAIT FOR NEW COP AUDITOR
The Eugene City Council plans to take as long as nine months to hire a new police auditor, leaving the key police oversight function understaffed and delaying the selection until after an election in which an anti-police auditor mayor and majority could take power.
The City Council voted 6-1 Aug. 11 for a hiring timeline that would delay finding a new auditor until next May, about nine months after the current auditor Cristina Beamud announced she would leave Aug. 22 to take a similar position in Atlanta.
The vote delays the selection of an auditor until after the November election and January swearing in of a new mayor. Earlier votes have shown the City Council balanced 4-4 in its support for an independent auditor.
Mayor Kitty Piercy has broken ties in support of the function. But Piercy is in a tight re-election race with former Mayor Jim Torrey. Torrey, a former Republican turned Independent, has said he opposes the independent auditor and would like the function controlled by the unelected city manager. One of Torrey’s largest campaign contributors is the Eugene police union, which opposes the independent auditor.
“I know there are people who feel that because of the turnover in council they want to slow it down or speed it up,” Councilor Bonny Bettman said. “I doubt that however it works out, I’d be here for the hiring.”
Bettman said she’s more concerned about the understaffing at the auditor’s office until a replacement is hired. The auditor’s office employs three people: an auditor, a deputy auditor and an office assistant. After Aug. 22, the staff will reduce from three to two positions.
“This timeline is longer than it needs to be,” said Councilor Betty Taylor. She said that hiring a recruiter would delay the process. The council plans to spend almost two months selecting and working with the recruiter before it first posts the position as vacant in October.
The slow hiring process stands in contrast to a hiring process for city manager a decade ago while Torrey was mayor. Amid criticism that conservatives were rushing the decision before a less conservative council could take office, Torrey and the council majority hired Jim Johnson in five months without a recruitment process. — Alan Pittman
CPA WEIGHS IN ON EXCLUSION
The amended exclusion ordinance that passed the Eugene City Council Monday night violates basic civil liberties, according to a letter to the Eugene City Council from Citizens for Public Accountability (CPA), a local public interest group.
The letter was sent to the mayor and council last week in anticipation of this week’s council action (see news story this week). Following the council decision, Jan Wostmann of CPA’s Steering Committee said CPA stands by the letter.
“Amending such a proposal will not render it acceptable,” reads the letter. “For instance the proposal might be amended to include only those convicted. But many low-income people, and the working poor, accept conviction on lesser crimes when accused of more serious crimes because they only have access to public defenders, whose services are increasingly limited for lack of funding.”
The letter says the homeless and youth will be “typical targets of this ordinance” and its application will “push these folks back into the residential neighborhoods, where there is even less security for local residents.”
CPA says the potential for abuse of such an ordinance is “obvious,” and adds, “Historically, this kind of ordinance is often applied to those who express their political preferences through public demonstrations.”
“We are opposed to the municipal government forming a shadow legal system, in which people can be punished, with exclusion, on the basis accusations outside established criminal standards,” reads the letter. “Even if the proposal is limited to those convicted, it would still create punishments beyond those already assigned in our existing laws.”
EAT IS BACK, LOVES TORREY
|Jim Torrey. Photo illustration.|
An email communiqué recently from “anarchists residing in the Eugene/Springfield area” endorses Jim Torrey in his bid to become mayor again.
“We hold that a Torrey regime would be sufficiently brutal and unresponsive to drive hordes of otherwise apathetic citizens to our cause,” reads the statement. “To this end we have resurrected Eugene Anarchists for Torrey (EAT).” The group was active in the 2000 elections and hung out at Torrey’s campaign table at the Fairgrounds election night, eating his carrot sticks and chips. A video of a 1999 EAT press conference can be found on youtube.com by searching for PictureEugene and EAT.
The anarchists say they are seeking to “replace the vertically organized, representative structures that dominate our society with horizontal, directly democratic ones. To achieve this requires a massive, popular rejection of the existing political and economic system. We hope that the election of Torrey will strip away the kind liberal veneer of the city government and re-energize the anarchist movement in Eugene.”
Quoted in the email is EAT member George Hayduke (a fictional character in Edward Abbey novels), saying, “The best political leaders are the ones who are lazy and corrupt.”
The group can be contacted through email@example.com and the UO campus newspaper The Insurgent is also listed at the bottom of the endorsement.
• The Sharing the Coast Conference is Aug. 15-17 at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, co-sponsored by the CoastWatch program of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and the Northwest Aquatic and Marine Educators. Talks, workshops and field trips present scientific information about the coast and ocean, and also to train volunteers who monitor the shoreline through CoastWatch, and those who serve as teachers, interpreters and docents. Cost is $30, though some talks are free. For more information, visit www.pacname.org/coastshare.html or call (541) 867-0329 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
• A series of LTD community design workshops to gather input on the preliminary design of routes for the West Eugene EmX Extension Project wraps up with two workshops. The Amazon Alignment Alternative session will be from 6 to 8 pm Monday, Aug. 18, and the All Alignment Alternatives session will be from 2 to 4 pm Wednesday, Aug. 20. Both will be at the Eugene Elks Lodge, 2470 West 11th Ave. For more information, visit we.emx.ltd.org or call 682-6100.
• An open house to solicit public input about the future of the Dorris Ranch Living History Farm is from 4 to 7 pm Tuesday, Aug. 19, at the ranch’s barn, at South Second and Dorris streets in Springfield. The drop-in event will allow people to comment about the 20-year-and-beyond master plan for future uses of the ranch. The plan looks at historic and cultural resources, including filbert orchard management; natural resources; facilities; and recreation and programming activities. Comments can also be submitted by Aug. 22 to Pat French, Willamalane Planning and Development Department, 250 S. 32nd St., Springfield 97478.
• The Big Look, a task force on Oregon land use planning, is holding public meetings around the state in September. The Eugene meeting is set for Friday, Sept. 26, with details TBA at OregonBigLook.org.
Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003 (last week’s numbers in parentheses):
• 4,138 U.S. troops killed* (4,130)
• 30,490 U.S. troops injured* (30,464)
• 145 U.S. military suicides* (145)
• 314 coalition troops killed** (314)
• 1,123 U.S. contractors killed (accurate updates NA)
• 94,487 to 1.1 million civilians killed*** (94,327)
• $544.5 billion cost of war ($542.5 billion)
• $154.8 million cost to Eugene taxpayers ($154.3 million)
* through August 11, 2008; source: icasualties.org; some figures only updated monthly
** estimate; source: icasualties.org
*** highest estimate; source: iraqbodycount.org; based on confirmed media reports; other groups calculate civilian deaths as high as 655,000 to 1.1 million.
LANE AREA HERBICIDE SPRAY SCHEDULE
• Forest Service Parks on the coast: During August the Forest Service will be spraying Aquamaster (glyphosate) herbicide on gorse within Baker Beach area (dune areas and west of Hwy. 101 north of Florence) and Cape Mountain (Nelson Ridge). Call Dan Segotta at (541) 563-8446.
Compiled by Jan Wroncy, Forestland Dwellers: 342-8332, www.forestlanddwellers.org
Due to an error in a media release, EW credited Betsy Wolfston as the sole creator of The Four Seasons public art (7/31, page 15). David Thompson is the co-creator of this art work.
• The exclusion zone downtown passed at the Eugene City Council this week and may not survive legal challenges and may not have any effect at all on downtown (see our news story this week). Other cities have found much more effective and constitutionally sound ways of dealing with their downtown scofflaws. So why is our council taking such an idiotic action that has failed in other cities? We suspect the motivation is political. Right-wingers such as Councilor Mike Clark want to put Mayor Kitty Piercy and others in a bind by forcing them to vote on a no-win issue. Anyone who opposes the “preconviction zone” can be labeled by conservatives as weak on crime. Anyone who favors the zone can be labeled by progressives as pandering to conservatives who don’t care about the Constitution. Piercy avoided being a tie-breaker on this 5-3 split, but it’s not too late for her to speak out for what’s right. The mayor's proposal was far better than the Clark-Ortiz measure that passed.
Meanwhile, some of our city and county residents are taking a more creative approach independent of the city. They are making a point of spending more time downtown. Individuals and small groups of residents are now purposefully wandering around the city center, checking out the excellent shops, restaurants, galleries and coffee shops. It’s good exercise, and it’s a good way to support downtown businesses. Bugged by panhandlers? Stop and chat for a while. Some smiles and friendly words can ease the tension.
• The November charter amendment strengthening Eugene’s police auditor system has some auditor supporters worried that it could backfire. If voters nix the measure, it could encourage the police union, mayoral candidate Jim Torrey and others who are seeking to sabotage police accountability and transparency. The threat is real. If Torrey is elected, we can expect him to do everything in his power to defund or otherwise diminish the auditor system. But pulling the plug on the charter amendment is a bad idea. Independent review of complaints against officers is already under heavy attack and requires an even stronger defense. What’s needed here is vocal support for the auditor system and charter amendment, and public outcry against the police chief and city manager for allowing and even condoning direct violation of city laws regarding independent review. We have yet to hear any compelling justification for the chief hiding from the auditor a confidential complaint against an officer, and we doubt that we ever will. Our police have historically hidden their misdeeds and errors behind a wall of silence and obfuscation.
This latest fiasco is just one more example of why we need not only independent police oversight but also an independent performance auditor. The cops are always claiming they can’t respond because they lack resources, but is the EPD really understaffed and underfunded? Is the organization management top-heavy? Are there problems with middle management supervision of patrol officers? Why are only half of EPD’s 170 sworn officers on patrol? Are our cops getting adequate training in conflict resolution? An independent auditor would look objectively at these issues and others, which in turn would make our city manager’s job a lot easier and help restore public confidence in our police force.
• What happens if the WG project favored by the city for the half block across from the library falls through, and second-choice Opus abandons its plans for student housing downtown? How about a combination police headquarters and city park? We hear the idea is being kicked around among councilors and city staff with generally favorable response. The city already owns the land. Cops belong in the city center, either near or attached to City Hall. Windows full of officers and dispatchers overlooking both the library and the park would discourage criminal activity day and night. Police video cameras could be installed along Broadway and other nearby trouble spots so officers in the headquarters could respond quickly on foot. And Eugene would get its downtown park.
• Need a different perspective after hearing all the down talk about downtown Eugene? Take a tour through WestTown on 8th next to the WOW Hall. We did that last week and it reaffirmed our faith in local folks who buckle down and actually do the right things. WestTown is l02 units of affordable housing, warmly designed, with lots of light and quality finishes, and including nine live/work units on the street level. About 30 units already are rented. The rest will be filled right away, adding several hundred people to the downtown community. As the Metropolitan Affordable Housing Corp. puts it, the residents include “working families and individuals, seniors, single parents or people completing drug and alcohol programs ... these are the people in our community who are working two, or even three jobs and still cannot afford the basics of living.”
This is Metro’s seventh project, and the next, Prairie View, is already on the drawing boards for west Eugene. Jean Tate founded Metro in 1992, joined by Rick Larson, current president of the board. Other board members: Susan Ban, Jody Miller, Jim Plummer, Barb Bellamy, Kirsten Cooper, Philip Farrington, Mandy Jones, Eric Messner, Elizabeth Nichols and Tenisha Te’o. Emeritus board members still active: Tate, Mike Coughlin, Gerry Gaydos and Matt Powell.
• McKenzie-Willamette Medical center is looking for a new site, and rumors have the hospital eyeballing Glenwood more than downtown Eugene. Back in May, Eugene city officials were talking to the Springfield hospital about the 12th and Willamette site downtown, an excellent location close to the city center. The medical chairs game continues, thanks to PeaceHealth’s move to Springfield. Meanwhile, who’s to blame for Glenwood becoming part of Springfield instead of Eugene? This short-sighted action happened on Mayor Torrey’s watch
DR. PAMELA WIBLE
“The average physician has empathy burnout after 10 patients,” says Dr. Pamela Wible, citing a recent study. “But a family doctor sees 28 patients per day on average.” Wible moved to Eugene in 1996, after med school in Galveston and a residency in Tucson. She worked as a family doctor in several offices in Eugene and Seattle. “I never kept a job more than two years,” she says. “I was frustrated by assembly-line medicine.” So, early in 2005, with the aid of a blurb in EW, Wible held town-hall meetings on how communities could design their own health care. “It was my experiment in democracy,” she says. “I got 100 pages of testimony. It became my business plan.” Wible now works three half-days a week in a tiny, one-person office, yet because of low overhead, she earns as much as she did working full-time at a large clinic. Patients get an hour of undivided attention and pay according to their ability. Wible uses her extra time to write and speak to medical groups. “I hear white male doctors call out, ‘Hallelujah!’” she says. “It goes over like a gospel revival.” Learn more at idealmedicalpractice.org